Glossary of Parliamentarian Terms

Parliamentary Procedure Resources: Glossary of Parliamentarian Terms

Parliamentary Procedure Resources: Glossary

There are many, many terms and definitions associated with Parmliamentary Procedure. Hopefully this glossary of terms will help you better understand Robert's Rules of Order, agendas, meeting minutes, motions, meeting rules and formats, and the parliamentary process.

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Parliamentary procedure terms on this page start with the letter "S". To view other terms select the letter below.

Parliamentary Procedure Definitions on This Page.....
scope of notice script second Secondary Amendment
secondary motion seconder secret ballot secretary
Select committee sergeant-at-arms seriatim session
show of hands vote signed ballot silent silent assent
simple majority sine die single slate skeletal minutes
slate speaker special committee special meeting
special orders special rules of order staggered terms stand at ease
standing committee standing rules state statutes state the question
straw poll Sturgis subcommittee subsidiary motions
Substitute Amendment Suspend the Rules sustain sustain the decision
of the chair
synchronous meetings      

top of pagescope of notice

A concept that applies to motions that require previous notice. It requires that the Amendment fall within the range that is created by what currently exists and by what is proposed in the advance notice of the Amendment.

top of pagescript

Written directions of what is to be said, by whom, and when during the meeting. A script serves as a cheat sheet for the presiding officer or the member as they try to conduct or participate in a meeting. The amount of detail in the script varies with the person writing the script and the person using the script.

top of pagesecond

An indication by a voting member, other than the person who made the motion, that he or she publicly agrees that the proposed motion should be considered. In seconding a motion, the member is only indicating agreement that the assembly should consider the motion, not necessarily agreement with the motion.

top of pageSecondary Amendment

A proposed change to the Primary Amendment. This form of Amendment is not simply the second Amendment made, but it must Amend the first Amendment made - the Primary Amendment.

top of pagesecondary motion

A motion that may be made while another motion is pending. It includes subsidiary motions, privileged motions, and incidental motions.

top of pageseconder

The member who seconds the motion.

top of pagesecret ballot

A form of voting in which the vote of a member is not disclosed. It usually involves slips of paper on which the voter marks his vote.

top of pagesecretary

The recording officer whose duty it is to maintain the records of the organization.

top of pageSelect committee

See special committee.

top of pagesergeant-at-arms

A position in some organizations whose job it is to help preserve order at the meeting, following the direction of the presiding officer.

top of pageseriatim

See Consideration by Paragraph.

top of pagesession

A meeting or a series of connected meetings as in a convention.

top of pageshow of hands vote

A method of voting in which the members express their vote by raising their hand. "All those in favor of the motion, please raise your hand. [pause] Please lower your hand. Those opposed to the motion, please raise your hand.[pause]Please lower your hand."

top of pagesigned ballot

A form of roll call vote that is used in large assemblies to save time. The member writes yes or no on the paper and signs it. The votes are then recorded in the minutes just as they would be if there had been a roll call vote.

top of pagesilent

A term used to describe the absence of an issue in a document. For example, if there is nothing in the bylaws on an issue, one might say the bylaws are silent on ... .

top of pagesilent assent

A slang term that is interchangeable with general consent and unanimous consent, and is a method of avoiding the formality of a vote by getting agreement of everyone in the meeting.

top of pagesimple majority

A majority - more than half.

top of pagesine die

Literally means “without day.” To Adjourn sine die means it's the final adjournment of an assembly. The last meeting of the convention is said to Adjourn sine die. The word is pronounced: SIGN-ee DYE-ee.

top of pagesingle slate

A list of candidates for office or positions which has the name of only one candidate for each office or position.

top of pageskeletal minutes

A tool to assist in the minutes writing process. They are minutes prepared in advance of a meeting or convention which includes all that will be occurring, and the order in which it will occur. They contain many blank spaces that are filled in during the meeting by the person(s) in charge of the minutes. They are prepared using the agenda and/or the script for the meeting.

top of pageslate

A list of candidates for office. The report of the nominating committee is usually referred to as the slate of candidates.

top of pagespeaker

Usually refers to the person who has the floor. In some organizations it refers to the presiding officer of the assembly, as in the Speaker of the House.

top of pagespecial committee

A committee that is formed to perform a particular function. After it gives its final report, it ceases to exist. Also referred to as select committee and ad hoc committee.

top of pagespecial meeting

A meeting called at a special time for a specific purpose. Notice of the time, place, and purpose of the meeting must be included in the information sent to all of the members regarding the meeting - referred to as the call of the meeting. Only business that was specified in the call of the meeting can be transacted at the meeting. A group cannot hold a special meeting unless special meetings are authorized in the bylaws. Special meetings are usually held for emergency purposes - things that were not, nor could be, planned for in advance.

top of pagespecial orders

This category of the agenda has the effect of setting a certain time when a specified subject will be considered, and of giving it an absolute priority for that time.

top of pagespecial rules of order

The rules contained in the parliamentary authority are called the rules of order. Sometimes organizations feel a need to have additional rules of order, called special rules of order, which differ from the parliamentary authority.

top of pagestaggered terms

Terms of office of a board or committee arranged in such a way that only a percentage of the terms end at the same time.

top of pagestand at ease

A brief pause, without a Recess, that is called by the presiding officer, without objection.

top of pagestanding committee

A committee appointed for a definitive time (frequently a year), usually listed in the bylaws, which performs ongoing functions.

top of pagestanding rules

Rules adopted by an organization that are administrative in nature rather than procedural. Convention standing rules are rules adopted by the convention’s delegates and are procedural in nature.

top of pagestate statutes

Incorporated organizations are governed by the state statutes of the state in which they are incorporated. These statutes are usually available through the secretary of state’s office or the state attorney general’s office and are available on the Internet.

top of pagestate the question

This refers to the third step in the processing of a motion. During this step, the presiding officer restates the motion, thus, formally placing it before the body.

top of pagestraw poll

A method of informally determining where the assembly stands on an issue. It is not allowed because it does not take an action and is therefore considered dilatory.

top of pageSturgis

Another parliamentary authority whose original book Sturgis Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure has been updated by the American Institute of Parliamentarians.

top of pagesubcommittee

A committee of a committee, usually formed for the purpose of study and investigation of certain matters, which reports its findings to the committee that formed it.

top of pagesubsidiary motions

Motions that aid the assembly in treating or disposing of a Main Motion. They are in order only from the time the Main Motion has been stated by the chair until the chair begins to take a vote on that Main Motion. Motions in this classification include: Lay on the Table, Previous Question, Limit or Extend Limits of Debate, Postpone to a Certain Time (Postpone Definitely), Commit or Refer, Amend, and Postpone Indefinitely.

top of pageSubstitute Amendment

An Amendment that proposes to strike out a paragraph or more and to insert another in its place.

top of pageSuspend the Rules

This motion is used when the assembly wants to do something that violates its own rules. This motion does not apply to the organization’s bylaws; local, state, or national law; or fundamental principles of parliamentary law. An appropriate suspension of the rules would be a motion to change the agenda, or the prescribed meeting time. An inappropriate suspension of the rules would be to allow nonmembers the same voting rights as members.

top of pagesustain

To support and uphold a ruling.

top of pagesustain the decision of the chair

To support and uphold a ruling made by the chair in an Appeal from the Decision of the Chair motion. When the Appeal motion is put to a vote, the wording used is: “Those in favor of sustaining the decision of the chair ....”

top of pagesynchronous meetings

Electronic meetings that occur when participants are in different places at the same time. Venues of the synchronous meetings include, but are definitely not limited to, telephone conferencing, video and web conferencing, chat room, instant messaging, and in-person meetings where some members attend electronically.


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